As a classical pianist, Rory Cowal’s repertoire spans the breadth of the American avant-garde. In addition to classic works by composers such as John Cage and Johanna Beyer, he has performed numerous premieres, including pieces by Larry Polansky and Muhal Richard Abrams. His recording of “Old Paint,” by Polansky, was included on a recent release by New World Records. As a jazz pianist, he has performed in festivals and concert series across North America, has recorded with a wide variety of artists, and is a member of Slumgum, an award-winning jazz quartet.
Larry Polansky. Three Pieces for Two Pianos. New World Records, 2016.
Trevor Anderies. Shades of Truth. Nine Winds, 2013.
Daniel Rosenboom Septet. Unsayable Absence. Daniel Rosenboom Music, 2013.
Slumgum featuring Hugh Ragin. The Sky His Own. Nine Winds, 2012.
Slumgum. Quardboard Flavored Fiber. Accretions, 2011.
Premasoul. A Shrine to All Things EP. Premasoul, 2009.
Slumgum. Slumgum. Slumgum, 2008.
Clinton Patterson. From a Dream. Clinton Patterson, 2008.
Celestial Sliphorns. Planisphere. Sea Breeze Jazz, 2008.
CalArts. Jazz 2008. Capitol Records, 2008.
CalArts. Jazz 2007. Capitol Records, 2007.
“After hearing them in Aspen this past summer, NJMH Directors Loren Schoenberg and Christian McBride agreed that Slumgum was a brilliant band … we were both knocked out by their originality and artistry. We decided right then and there to bring them to NYC as soon as we could.” – Christian McBride and Loren Schoenberg, National Jazz Museum in Harlem
“[Slumgum] opened with a relaxed set … Rory Cowal hinted at Vienna and India, Spain and Coltrane. Slumgum switched moods — pastoral, cheerful, meditative, romantic — yet retained a casual group identity formed by years of collaboration, and maintained a web-like hold on the audience. It could play anywhere.” – Greg Burk, Los Angeles Times
“Those with the good fortune to hear either of Slumgum’s recordings or catch the band live stand the chance of obtaining a mind-expanding double-whammy. This quartet … specializes in the sort of original modern jazz that maintains an unshakable eye towards to the future while acknowledging, and drawing upon, the music’s storied past … Rory Cowal’s Rhodes piano growls and chimes … Cowal’s “Afternoon” is a beautifully lush, somewhat amorphous ballad that swells into a moderate-tempo waltz, topped by Tranchina’s sweet bass solo and Cowal’s own meditative piano … Slumgum’s compositional and instrumental abilities put it in the very top echelon of forward-looking, up-and-coming jazzers.“ – Dave Wayne, www.allaboutjazz.com
“A brightly twisted product of CalArts’ music program, the quartet Slumgum has played off-center local incubators like the Blue Whale and the Steve Allen Theater’s experimental showcase ResBox. Rising out of Rory Cowal’s flickering Fender Rhodes keyboard, “Hancho Pancho” expands into a growling storm led by saxophonist Jon Armstrong, and the thoughtful “Afternoon” showcases the band’s care with slow-burning acoustic atmosphere … the group’s vivid sense of melody and relentless drive for exploration mark it as a quartet to watch.” – Chris Barton, Los Angeles Times
“Quardboard Flavored Fiber is [Slumgum’s] best album yet … the jazz is torn to shreds in places by pianist Rory Cowal’s huge, gnarly Rhodes.” – Brick Wahl, LA Weekly
“Try standing on top of your desk. the new perspective will make things you’ve seen a million times seem fresh. L.A.’s Slumgum has the same effect, creating expressive compositions you thought you knew well, but then taking it somewhere else. Of course, experimental jazz is largely about the talent behind each outrageous noise, and, here, the drums and bass can barely tether Jon Armstrong on the tenor sax or Rory Cowal on the piano. Listless wandering leads to a blazing overflow of sound, as if the whole band is playing harmoniously to a wild and atmospheric solo, and each measure can feel a world apart. With elements of Miles Davis and world music, like Russian polka, try to hold on for the ride.” – Jonathan Lopez, Good Times Santa Cruz
“Quardboard Flavored Fiber, the new album by Los Angeles band Slumgum, is a jazzy smorgasbord. Pianist Rory Cowal’s ‘Afternoon’ is lovely and easy, practically an island in the stormy ocean of experimentation posed by the CD as a whole. This music fills out a lot of different grooves, the appropriate adjectives including cool, spooky, beautiful, and wild.” – Paul Weineman, Pasatiempo/The Santa Fe New Mexican